a story inspired by the life of Daphne Lynne Beer
by Joann Nam
Today has been so tiring.
Work was normal, like always. But as soon as sunrise hit, I remembered the high expectations my family had for me while growing up. I earned a bachelor’s and a master’s at two different universities—I had gotten several jobs throughout my life already (Contract Negotiator, Managing Partner, Director of Sales and Marketing, and now Director of Corporate Communications)—I was known as the one with creative branding skills, managing business plans and having my entire schedule filled to the brim. My parents would compare me to my siblings all of the time, stating that I was the perfect child and role model the family should look up to. I wouldn’t have these talents and jobs and degrees if it weren’t for my parents…
I was incredibly grateful for where I got in life, but sometimes I wished I could go back in time to my childhood, or maybe even teenage-hood, and just slow things down. Make time for myself. Make time for the things I loved. The big things; the little things. Everything that once mattered to me eventually became irrelevant and a waste of time—a threat to my future. It’s just how life worked, I supposed.
It bugged my mind all day in my working hours, and I hoped the thoughts didn’t affect my performance. I doubted that I would ever get fired, knowing everything that I was capable of that could benefit the company, but I still didn’t want to create a bad reputation around me.
But now that I was home, all of those expectations melted away. I lived in my own house now, and I started my own family. My parents couldn’t make decisions for me anymore. Now I had to make decisions for my own daughter.
And those decisions were what stressed me out the most. Every. Single. Day.
My daughter, Gabrielle, who was now a teen, developed something called “juvenile rheumatoid arthritis” at the age of two years old. She was too young to be considered chronically ill. No one should ever be through so much pain as an infant. It was overwhelming to know what kind of symptoms she was going through. Painful joints, inflammation, fatigue, a decreased appetite… It felt like the list got longer and longer every time we visited the doctor to check on her condition.
Luckily, she’s gotten used to the procedure of taking her medicine as she grew. We’ve tried a few types of medication, but we believed that the one she was taking currently worked best. However, I was sure that my daughter grew tired of being the odd one out in society. She told me stories of her classmates making fun of her, thinking she was mentally deranged just for taking pills. Sometimes I found her pills inside the trash can, and she would tell me, “I feel fine. I don’t need to take my pills today.” I didn’t blame her a single bit for how she felt about everything, but sometimes, it still felt like everything was all my fault.
“Hey, sweetie, I’m home,” I weakly called out to her. I looked around to see if she was sitting at her study desk, working on the homework she received today; but instead, I found her sitting at the dinner table eating a bag of potato chips. “No homework today?”
“No, I’m just taking a break,” she held up the bag of chips, “Eating a snack.”
“Well,” I chuckled, “Just eat whatever’s in the fridge. There were a lot of leftovers from yesterday. And don’t finish the whole bag! Chips aren’t the healthiest snack.”
I left the dining room to unpack my bag from work. As I skimmed through papers that I’d have to review, I heard a voice say, “I know, mom.”
Then, the house stayed still for a while. Nothing seemed to move but my own hands and feet from unpacking and the tick tock’s coming from the clock hanging from the wall. My brain was scrambling to grab a pen and sign a few documents from work, ensuring that things will be communicated swiftly, efficiently, conveniently—pens clicking here and there and having to walk from room to room and talking and talking with other people and—
The pens stopped clicking. I stopped walking mid-step. All of the voices surrounding me faded away. I was home; I was not at work.
“What is it, honey?”
“You know… You told me a long time ago that when I’m older, I could have surgery for my condition,” Gabrielle started wrapping the bag of chips, saving them to be eaten another day, “And well… I’m older now. I know it can be a huge risk, having surgery for this kind of thing, but I really want this to be more of an inconvenience than a disability, mom. If it’s not too expensive, do you think we could schedule an appointment sometime soon..?”
My heart skipped a beat. My fragile daughter? Getting surgery? On her joints that have been affecting her since she was a toddler?
Money was definitely not an issue. Her father and I have been trying to get better jobs and more promotions to treat her disease until she’s able to care for herself, but I never thought of surgery coming so soon.
Of course there was a part of my mind telling me that I shouldn’t let her do it—a surgeon was going to make a mistake and injure her even more—the surgery wouldn’t be successful and it was a waste of time, money, and hope—the medication would start piling up more and more until Gabrielle would get intoxicated—so many risks I didn’t want to think about.
But at the same time, I knew this surgery would mean everything to her. She could live with a fraction of the amount of pain she’s felt since she was young. She could finally fit in with her peers. She wouldn’t be called or seen as inferior. She wouldn’t have to carry so much weight of an unpredictable disease. Maybe, for once in her life, she’d be able to feel like herself.
Would it be too selfish to say no? Would it be too risky to say yes?
My mind wandered back and forth between these choices like a game of ping pong.
Yes. No. Yes. Maybe. It’s up to you. No.
“Mom…” I felt Gabrielle’s eyes staring at the back of my head. I must have been pondering on the decision for a long while now. “Mom, if now’s not a good time, I can wa—”
“Let me think about it,” I interrupted her, “I’ll talk with your dad if this is a good idea.” I sounded completely emotionless—a robot—in order to not send her the wrong message. I didn’t want her knowing that I didn’t completely trust this surgery. I was supposed to talk about it with my husband anyway. But I wanted to tell her that this should be her choice, not mine.
“I…” She hesitated for a moment, but then she smiled faintly. “That’s alright.”
…I didn’t fool her well enough.
She gently pulled herself off the chair and slowly made her way towards her study desk. “Well, mom, I’ll finish my homework now. Dad is coming home late tonight, right?”
“That’s right,” I sighed, wishing we could discuss the surgery plans at that moment, then and there, “I’ll be finishing up my own work from today down here. Call me if you need me.”
And just like that, the entire bottom floor of the house was mine.
I pulled out the same papers I skimmed through earlier—some required a signature and others needed other information to be filled out—and placed them all into neat and organized piles. I started writing away, filling out all of the blanks and spaces in the documents that my company so desperately needed; I wondered how long it would take until the piles started to clear up.
And then it hit me again.
The pressures and expectations of my family—the long, dreadful nights of studying for hours and hours on end—the constant bickering of “you can always do better”—the numerous comparisons between me and my siblings—the kind of jobs I was expected to get—the unwanted attention I’ve received from family gatherings—the cries of my sister wanting to gain just as much love as I did—the guilty pride I’ve always felt as my mother grinned towards me—the life that my parents strived for me—how successful I was compared to my friends and family—how little appreciation I felt for coming so far—how much I wanted to go back in time and make decisions for myself.
My daughter’s surgery—how much pain I felt while she cried and cried and cried as a toddler, not understanding what she was feeling—the countless trips to the hospital wondering what was wrong—the long, complicated names of the drugs and medicine she was prescribed to help ease her pain—the weight I carried when I first learned that her condition was chronic—the nights of crying in my husband’s arms—the worry of how she’d be able to survive in this world—her stories of other kids teasing her at school—her desperation to end this suffering once and for all—the choice I wanted to give her, but not so easily.
I snapped back to reality, realizing that I had been crying.
Next to the dining table was a large canvas, resting on an easel. The canvas had a half-finished painting already completed on it of a dock and two boats paddling away—I recognized it. It was a painting of the last line of The Great Gatsby. No matter how hard I tried to escape the past, I had to look forward to the future. Nick’s words ran through my mind until its roots were thoroughly planted into my thoughts.
And then I got up, grabbed a paintbrush and palette, and started to paint again. Careful strokes and hundreds of colors and repeating Nick’s words over and over again made me forget about all the events that happened earlier today. My family, Gabrielle’s wish, and my work disappeared into thin air. All there was in the world was me, my tools, and this canvas.
I finally found peace with myself, and even if temporary, I was able to let the past go.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Hovering, Will Find That Tree
a story inspired by the life of Lollie Belle Wylie
by Rita Zheng
Author’s Grove was small, only a few thousand square feet, but still L— thought it impressive for how recently it had been established. She could still remember the first tree planted: a fledgling oak for the young Futrelle, who’d gone down with the Titanic nearly ten years ago. He had been a remarkable writer, one of Atlanta’s finest up-and-comings, but his life had been cut tragically short. The ceremony then had been smaller, less than fifty people to witness the event. Their organization had been young still, only a few years old and not nearly enough of a reputation to draw in the numbers they were used to now.
But on the day of their biggest event, the planting and monument ceremony for the former President, the grove teemed with hundreds of people, all vying for the best spot to watch the unveiling. L— marveled at how much the Writers Club had grown since she and Kate had founded it less than a decade ago, to bring a turnout like this. Nearly all of Atlanta’s distinguished writers were gathered amongst the onlookers, and L— took immense pride in her status as the president of the association.
Futrelle’s young sapling was just as skinny as it had been when they first planted it, but it had shot up quite a bit, now reaching well above the visitors’ heads. Dozens of trees had joined it since that first year. From her position L— could spot the trailing ends of the weeping willow planted by the kindergarteners in honor of Mother Goose. The memory made her smile; some of her more irritable colleagues had balked at the idea of letting an army of children loose on the grove while others had protested the notion of dedicating a tree to a fictional character. In the end, though, it was her call, and she thought the grove could use the youthful presence the kindergarteners brought.
The ceremony kicked off with the planting of a gorgeous chestnut oak donated by the arboretum. It was much older than the rest of the trees in the grove, its trunk a solid half foot wider than the others. When they were given a selection of saplings to choose from, the chestnut oak had stood out, easily outsizing the other trees. L— had immediately known it was the one.
Months later, as she lay bedridden for hours and days on end, drifting in and out of consciousness, she would remember that day and the magnitude of her feelings then, but she would only recall little of it, the events escaping her mind like a sand in a sieve. Her mind seized onto the unimportant details while tossing out the names and faces.
She would remember planting the tree, how twenty trees later she still wasn’t tired of that feeling, the thrill of watching the soil cover the tree roots, knowing that those roots would begin to take hold once they finished. The trees she helped plant would continue to grow for years and years as living monuments of the people they were dedicated to, ensuring that they would remain unforgotten as long as the tree stood—not by the people, whose memory would eventually fail them, but by the trees themselves.
She wouldn’t remember what kind of tree was planted, only that it had been different from the rest, and she wouldn’t remember who the tree had been dedicated to, only it was someone important, far more prominent than the writers they usually planted dedications for. She wouldn’t remember the song the band played as she spoke, only faint snatches of the melody,
She wouldn’t remember which granddaughter had unveiled the monument but she would remember the color of her dress, a spring green that matched the eyes they had in common. She wouldn’t remember her face or what was engraved onto the monument, despite writing it herself, but she would remember standing next to it, the enormity of the stone next to her, listening as the crowd roared.
She wouldn’t remember any of the speeches speaking of the event or the former president; she wouldn’t even remember the one she herself gave. Her clearest memory of the day was the poem they had read, one of her own. She remembered the words, now, as she laid in her sickbed.
Plant a Beech by L— B— W—
Plant a beech tree when I die
With its arms held to the sky
Plant it firm and plant it deep
Somewhere, when I fall asleep
Should a bird for Love’s dear sake
In the boughs a warm nest make,
Or a squirrel, blythe and gay
Through the silvered branches stray
I am sure that grateful tree ,
Welcome words will give from me,
For a beech tree, gnarled and strong,
Echoes my home-loving song
Plant a beech tree when I go
Into God’s White Fields of Snow,
Plant it where the red bird calls,
Where the sunshine softly falls
Plant it where the fireflies,
Bees, and men with tired eyes
Turn to rest on living green
Finding hope and light serene.
When I rest, I know I’ll know
If my beech tree branches grow,
If I make a home for Love,
Arched by starry skies above,
Or if birds go there to sing,
Or the bees on golden wing,
Or a squirrel seeks its shade
Sheltered, safe and unafraid
Plant a beech tree kissed by sun
When my sands of Life have run
And my soul, if souls are free
hovering, will find that tree
She could feel her eyes growing heavier, and she knew she didn’t have long. She only hoped her daughters wouldn’t mourn too long, and they would remember her wishes.
POETESS DEAD IN ATLANTA
Atlanta, Feb. 16: Mrs L— B— W—, pioneer in the Atlanta newspaper world, acclaimed poet, author, and composer, passed away this morning. Funeral services will be held tomorrow.
The beech tree was young, and it would not yet house the small creatures making home in its neighbors for several years and years, but it was planted firm and it was planted deep, and it would continue to grow. Its branches were already beginning to stretch to the sky, and though its roots were hidden beneath the earth, they would emerge in time.
As the earth spun on its never-ending journey around the sun, the snow ladened boughs of winter melted into the gentle birdsong of spring swelled into the viridescent shades of summer fell into the warm foliage of autumn. A gentle breeze caressed the silver branches of the young beech. In the distance, a bird called out softly, the sunlight resting softly upon its brilliant red plumage.
A Simple Joy for a Housewife
a story inspired by the life of Estell H. Henderson
by Jade Kluytman
“Goodbye Honey!” I yell to my husband E—L—H—, as he pulls our sons by the hand to go off to work. “Don’t be too rough with little E—H—, now.” Our youngest smiles at me with his hands on his hips and a look of pride. I’m glad to know they’ll be alright. More excitingly, though, as my boys walk out our door, I’m glad to hear my neighbor’s dog barking a few doors down. That means he’ll be on his way.
I pull out the honey toast I’d been baking and blow out the candles I’d lit to cover the smell from my family—I know my sons would find their way into the kitchen and investigate what had been in the oven. I feel a bit bad making sweets that aren’t for them, but the lord knows I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to serve their every need—and I do so happily. Completely content, 100% satisfied, and only because—the door receives a proper knocking. I remove my mitts, and place the baking sheet on the counter, first checking if it is cool enough so as to not leave a mark on the red wood. After verifying the safety of my house, I run to open the door with a smile. “I’m so glad you could make it, Mister M—H—!” He smiles back at me, seeming happy for my continued excitement at his visits.
“I hope you don’t mind, miss,” M—H— started in his usual professional tone. “But I’ve brought young Lucky with me today. I’m afraid the wife is out and unable to take care of him, and he’s much too young to be left alone.” As if he could hear his owner’s words, Lucky wagged his tail and stared at me with his big eyes. He was a beautiful puppy, my husband told me he was a purebred retriever—though I’m not quite sure I understand the complete meaning of that. A dog is a dog, I feel, and all are quite cute.
“Of course not,” I reply, kneeling down to meet the puppy’s height. “I’m very happy to see you! Such a good boy!” A bit of slobber reached my bent knees as I scratched right behind his ears. “I’ve baked some treats for you and your wife,” I started. “It’s a new recipe, I do hope you’ll enjoy it!” I ran into the kitchen, grabbing my creation and then held out my heart and soul in sweet toast form, and offered him a seat. He took a bite right away and let out a noise of delight.
“Simply…” he took another bite. “Utterly…” another. “Delicious!” By now the whole thing had been stuffed into his mouth. “Well, anyways,” he started, after taking his final gulp. “We ought to get down to business, huh?” I shook my head excitedly letting him know I was ready and willing.
“Let’s begin, Mister!”
He dug into his scuffed brown satchel, through items that clanged and clicked, scratched and bonked, to pull out a colorful book. I stared at it for a brief second, before I was interrupted. “Can you read the first word of the title?” It seems he was inquiring about just what I had been trying to do. I could tell this much right away: the first word contained three letters, and I noticed round shapes.
“The first letter… Is it… a D?” I asked, feeling the extreme pressure Mister M—-H— had unintentionally put on me. When I looked back up to him, I saw a small grin of approval. Phew!
“So the second… well that’s easy! An O, correct?”
Feeling the streak of confidence, I didn’t take much time to ponder the last letter. “Q!” After looking at him, I realized I might not have been right. I got too cocky, I’m sure. So I think about the letters together.
“A D… and an O… So far we have DO? And the next letter resembles a Q. A Q…” I notice Mister M—H— staring at me with great hope in his large brown eyes. “DO…G! It’s a G, right Mister? The word is dog!” With a large grin, my neighbor lightly applauds me, and I notice Lucky getting excited from his owners clapping.
“Yes, yes! This story is about a dog, one very similar to this here Lucky! The full title is Dog’s First Bath.” I can’t contain a small giggle, for I find it such a silly concept for a book! I understand it is for children, Mister M—H— says children’s books are the best books to help you learn to read. When I was much younger, most of my neighbors my age were boys. Every morning, I watched them leave for school out of the window of my father’s small cottage. He told me learning is for boys, and my job is to learn to do things like cook and clean, so he’d send me off to learn from the older women around. There I learned many great recipes, how to wash clothes, and even how to show manners towards men—yet I never learned how to read, like my friends nearby could. I’d always see their books, and the interesting covers on them, but no boy wanted to teach me to read. No boy until Mister M—H—, that is.
When we first moved in, I took it upon myself to introduce myself to all our neighbors, with a basket of biscuits for each. All of our neighbors were lovely, and it made me excited for my little boys to grow up in such a lovely place. The one neighbor who I couldn’t seem to come across, though, was Mister M—H—. I’d met his kind wife many times, but she always told me something along the lines of “my husband is off in a world of his own right now.” I never understood what it meant, to be off in a world of your own, until one day his wife had let me in to show me the renovations recently completed on their house. That was the day M—H— and I finally met. I saw him in the study and was quick to guide myself off the house tour path to finally say hello and introduce myself. Though it took a few taps on the shoulder, he finally replied.
“Ah, my condolences. I was reading a book. Pleased to meet you!” At that moment, I was reminded of all of the books I’d remembered the boys reading in my childhood. I remembered the great envy I felt, and it seemed to be resurfacing, until I was interrupted. “Do you read, E—H—?”
Since then, Mister M—H— had been coming over, with the permission of his misses, to teach me how to read. He even says he’ll teach me how to write, if I so please—but what excites me the most is the stories I’ll experience. Right now, I can only read simple words, and I often make mistakes. But just a month ago, I couldn’t identify any letters. I truly feel proud of what we’ve accomplished.
Though I love my boys—my husband and my son—more than anything in the world, I feel like reading is something my own. I’d never meant a girl who knew how to read until I met M—H—’s wife, and the world seems brand new to me now. While I bake and clean for my boys, I sometimes wonder what it’d be like…
If I could write a book for them.
The Holidays of Wimbish Hall
a story inspired by the lives of the Wimbish family
by Matthew Lewin
Odessa – Essie
Hugh – Ewan
Edyth – Ed
Water – Watt
Maggie – Mae
Christopher Columbus Jr. – CC
Christopher Columbus Sr. – Senior
The snow had crept into the ground this time a year, but the more mild snowstorms of Atlanta had been a pleasant surprise to CC. As the holiday approaches His family decides to hold a party at their manor on Peachtree. This year however, had been a very special occasion; he had just graduated from law school and recently gotten married.
“I haven’t been here since the year after the great war” CC says to his wife while staring out the window of the train. The city of Atlanta was becoming more visible as the tracks approached. The ground stained white and the sky stained gray, it was the best Georgia weather he could have asked for.
“Are you sure you want to do this? Last Christmas the drama got so out of hand we left before they even stuffed the turkey” Essie says, glancing at CC, more focused on the Belgian waffles that just got served to her. While they sit anxiously awaiting the disaster to come at the family dinner table, Father, mother, and uncle back at manor get ready for their guests shortly.
“You’re burning the turkey!” Mae yells at Ewan while he scrambles to set the entire party himself. Mother and Father had been of little help. Uncle Ewan clambers around the mansion, struggling to clean the floors, set up the decorations, and cook the entire feast all on his own. CC senior had been reading this morning’s newspaper, unphased by his brother’s misfortune and the obscenities his wife has been throwing at him the last hour. Ed was the first to arrive, just at the perfect time to see the gas fire that had just been lit on the stove while Ewan had his attention on the rat that had gotten loose in the house.
“Mom, dad, why aren’t you doing anything?” Ed asks sternly, like she was the parent for tonight.
“Your uncle said he had it under control I thought” Mae shoots back at her, wobbling out of her chair realizing she is now going to have to contribute. Senior follows soon after, reporting to his daughter for preparations.
Back to CC and Essie, the train had come to a stop at the restless station. One step out and rush of an approaching Christmas had got the better of every resident in Atlanta. The couple were being trampled by the hundreds getting on and off. Barely being able to make it through with their bags and self intact.
“We should’ve just stayed in Chicago,” Essie says, not thinking the trip was worth this much effort.
“You’re probably right, but they haven’t heard from me in months. I just have to tell them about law school.” CC adds brightly. A long walk through the city in the thick snow, the two arrive at the manor. The roof laid with a thin line of snow, dozens of windows were all filled with faces he didn’t recognize. It looked just like his memories. They got there just in time to meet CC’s brother Watt at the entrance.
“I didn’t think you’d make it this year, again.” Watt says staring blankly at CC. Waiting to get a rise out of him.
“I couldn’t let you get all of our parents’ attention again this time” CC says back at his brother, eyeing Essie.
She looks back smugly, knowing she was right. Further in, the entirety of the family was finally back together after years, it had been the biggest crowd this mansion had ever seen. Countless cousins and in-laws littered the floors. Nobody knew their names, but they were here to stay the whole night. Long after the emotional greetings and the awkward small talk, the closest family members had made their way to the most decorated table in the hall. Ornate wrought chairs lined in colorful silk – this table was only for the most important of the family. Ewan, Watt, Ed, Mae, Essie, CC Jr. and Sr. all sat here.
All the guests had sat down, and silence filled the perfumed air of the halls. Senior decided now was his time to get up off his high horse and deliver his routine speech to the mass of nameless family members; he always had to give one at every social gathering. While the eyes of all of his children rolled simultaneously, Senior ordered his brother to, once again, head the festivities of the event.
“I am so happy to be seeing that every single member of our proud family made it here tonight. I hope you all have a great time here, but while it is pleasant to end this year on a high note, it pains me to say that this might be our last outing here in Atlanta. For it is my honor to announce that I will be selling this great mansion to the Women’s club!” Senior yelled across the halls, his voice echoing off of all four corners.
Silence pierced the warm fire-lit air like a sundial in the shade. Not a single soul dared to speak out. One corner table began clapping, soon followed by others until the entire mansion burst into applause – the silence finally broke, and the festivities resumed. Back at the main table the children and parents were boasting about the success of their lives and incompetence of the other around them. Soon after, CC had built up the courage for his announcement to them. Law school was not something that his family would’ve chosen for him, after following in his uncle’s footsteps in World War I, they all had expected and wished for him to join the government like his father.
“CC would like to make an announcement everyone,” Essie says, talking over whatever Watt had to say.
“Thank you, I wanted to tell all of you that I have finally graduated from Law school in Illinois,” CC says nervously, waiting for a response. A response he never got, nothing but silence and empty stares between one another. After what felt like a century of silence Ed finally breaks it.
“That’s great CC, we’re all so very proud of you,” she says not even trying to hide the forced smile. The rest quickly follow by exchanging unenthusiastic congratulations. Just in time to save the table, Uncle Ewan came out with the rest of the turkey and the rest of the food.
At the end of the party late in the night, the gray in the sky had turned to black and the masses had flocked to the door. At the exit the family had all said their goodbyes to one another and to the house they grew up in, one left after another until it was just CC and Essie. They both stared at each other in agreement. He should’ve listened to her from the beginning.
Heaven is Just Past the Church
a story inspired by the life of Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Neal
by Alexandra Sanguinetti
L—clumsily tripped over herself for what felt like the thousandth time of the day. Her mother had kept looking up from her book, worrying for her daughter after having seen her pass out cold on the floor the week before.
“Don’t stress your body, hun. Maybe you should sit down for a bit instead of going out every other day.” L— brushed off her mother, whilst dusting off her white dress.
“You worry too much, Mama… I’ll be fine. Now don’t just sit there and read, aren’t we heading to Church today?” L— tapped her finger with impatience, and her mother’s face scrunched up in worry. In her mother’s hand was The Holy Bible, it was Sunday, and she always read it before heading out to Church. Having lived in the Deep South of Louisiana, L—’s mother had educated her two daughters well in the way of God. L— never truly had an interest in those things, but she respected and loved her mother as well as her dear little sister, so she went along with it. Her mother dearest knew this about her daughter, that she was immature and quick to lose interest in things. Even so, she loved her so dearly, why, she bawled her eyes out after having seen L— faint the week before. L—’s father, on the other hand, refused to come with them to Church.
L—’s father was a Confederate Civil War veteran. He was often tired, and seemingly off in another world. When L— looked into his eyes she could see it, the bags under his eyes that had sunken into his face, etching themselves permanently into his skin. Mother dearest had often tried to bring her father to Church with them, but he’d smile at her, whisper a few words, then sit back down and stare out the window. Nothing was different that day, he did the same as he always did; except he said something to L— this time.
“Be careful out there, don’t hurt yourself…” He said this under his breath, right before L— walked out the door, her knees still aching a little from her constant tripping. She heard him and smiled at her father before he turned away once more.
On the way to Church, L— talked with her family as she always did, though the tension in the air refused to be lifted by her mother’s sharp gaze.
“Oh, Mama, would you please lighten up! I’m really quite alright, see?” She twirled around in her long white dress, spinning clumsily around until she tripped a little again. An aching pain in her joints came back once more.
“Look, you’ve hurt yourself…maybe it would be wise for you to stay home.” Her mother went from a face of aggravated worry to a genuine look of pain. Pain for her poor daughter.
“Like I said, I’m fine!” L— managed to brush off the pain, though she could still feel it in her bones. It was getting worse.
Once they arrived at Church, they were seated and quietly listened to the Preacher’s sermon. During the prayer, L— looked over to her mother, and saw her clasping her hands tightly together. Her eyes were shut tightly in prayer. L— just stared up at the ceiling, thinking of how the joints in her legs ached. She then said a small prayer to herself.
“Lord, please take this pain away.” That was all she said while her hands were together in prayer. Almost as if it were a coincidence, L— then collapsed to the floor right then and there. The Church members gasped, her mother was the loudest of them all though, as she cried out for help.
L— spent the next few weeks after that incident with a personal doctor, it turned out that she had a disease called rheumatism. The joints in her bones had decided to grow stiff and give up on her it seemed. Her mother must have cried every day and every night for weeks, for every time she left her room there was only red under her eyes. After all, L— was only 22 years old. A young, bright girl such as her being diagnosed with something so horrible, it was denial all around for everybody. L— didn’t know what to do with herself. She’d sat in her bed for so long that she felt her legs become numb overtime. Instead of worrying about her disease and the constant hurt she felt in her joints, she thought of simple things, like how she hoped she wouldn’t forget how to walk, how her friends were doing, and how horrible she felt about seeing her mother in this state. This became a cycle of thoughts for the painful weeks that passed. Her mother would come in sometimes and pray over her, but L—’s mind was always elsewhere during those times. She missed the outside.
About 2 months had passed since then, and her condition only worsened with time. Her mother continually came in and prayed for her, but L— had started listening to her mother at this point. She had nothing better to do anyways, and she found it soothing. Hearing her mother pray over her and read The Holy Bible to her made her feel as though she were being healed, even if nothing was really happening. Her father hadn’t faced her for the whole 2 months, until one day he did.
“Do you think you could still walk a little, I want to show you something.” L—’s father came in so suddenly after having not seen her for 2 months, that she was utterly baffled. It was the middle of the night, and a stack of letters from friends fell after the door hit them. L— snapped at him.
“What makes you think you can just come in, trash my room, and talk to me now after having ignored me for 2 months?” She looked away from him in anger.
“I didn’t know how to face you after I found out about what happened. But, I know it’s your birthday soon. You’re turning 23, huh?” There was a softness in his eyes, and L— relaxed her stance.
“I would go somewhere with you, but I can barely walk without feeling any pain, and I don’t think I even remember how to walk properly…I’m too weak to go anywhere.” L— wore a somber expression
“It’s okay, I’ll carry you.” L—’s father picked her up in a crooked motion, and she could barely clutch on strong enough with how weak her arms were. She did not protest though, instead she looked at him and saw the worry in those tired eyes. He took her outside, and L— took a deep breath of that fresh air. She hadn’t smelled the outside in months. The grass, the flowers, even the dirt filled her with joy.
“Oh, Papa, you have no idea how much I missed the outside! Place me down in the field, right over there!” She kicked her feet ever so slightly as to not trigger too much pain in her body. Her father placed her down in the field, then sat next to her. They sat there taking in the breeze for a bit before her father spoke.
“…I found this palm branch.” After a minute of silence, her father had pulled out a hidden palm branch from beyond the grass.
“Why are you showing me that?” L— was confused at most, her father was never much of a sentimental man.
“It means spiritual victory over death.” He silently handed it to her. Her confused expression changed to that of realization, and she looked into his eyes.
“…Papa, am I going to die?” She looked down at the palm branch, feeling the bristles of the branch between her fingers.
“I don’t know, but I’m hoping you stick around for a bit longer.” Her father said, then pointed to the front of the house.
“You see that wreath? That there means eternity. Even if you pass on and leave us…you’ll still be with us.” This was common in old Irish culture, a wreath symbolizing eternity. It seemed as though he were trying to hold back tears in his voice. L— looked at him for a while, then nodded her head.
“Papa, my condition is getting worse, I know that you know that. I don’t think I’m gonna be around for much longer, but I’ll think of these things you showed me today. Hopefully, God will pardon me for my lack of devotion in my life all these years.” She laughed to herself and smiled at her father in that green field with the stars seemingly aligned in the sky. He stared at her, then smiled.
“Well, your mother somehow did, being the godly woman that she is.” Her father laughed with her, and they stared at that night sky for hours, talking under the stars.
Not long after, L—’s 23rd birthday passed, along with her. This fatal disease had taken her away from the ones she loved, her loving parents and caring sister. Her loyal friends. Though, she was not forgotten by them. Even though life went on for them, they couldn’t forget their beloved L—N—, not now, not ever. Till death do them part.